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Exceeding Our GraspScience, History, and the Problem of Unconceived Alternatives$
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P. Kyle Stanford

Print publication date: 2006

Print ISBN-13: 9780195174083

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2006

DOI: 10.1093/0195174089.001.0001

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 Science without Realism?

 Science without Realism?

Chapter:
(p.188) 8 Science without Realism?
Source:
Exceeding Our Grasp
Author(s):

P. Kyle Stanford (Contributor Webpage)

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/0195174089.003.0008

This chapter addresses the question of whether there is any sense to be made of science without scientific realism. That is, it will try to identify whether there is any coherent positive view we might take of our successful scientific theories if we abandon the presumption that they must be approximately true descriptions of nature's innermost recesses and secret domains. A long and distinguished minority tradition has embraced a view entitled “instrumentalism,” which instead regards even our best scientific theories merely as effective tools or instruments for achieving our practical goals. It is argued that the problem of unconceived alternatives promises to breathe new life into this instrumentalist tradition: not into its discredited semantic theses, but into its positive conception of the status of scientific theories.

Keywords:   scientific realism, scientific theory, instrumentalism, unconceived alternatives

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